I sometimes see myself as a slow learner. I am extremely fast at deep-thinking, which somewhat disguises this fact, but I learn things from the ground up. Until I can think a topic through I sometimes feel unsure about operating from an incomplete understanding.
When I worked in academia I prefered to learn rather than to force my opinions on others. Everybody seemed reasonably smart, and they were absolutely convinced of their own correctness, and so I listened and learned. Continue reading “Why I write”
A sense of home is a powerful feeling. The sense of belonging, of knowing where everything is. I miss that sometimes.
I left Ireland almost exactly 10 years ago with a burning need to go out and prove myself. I had finally recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and was going to take up a much delayed PhD position. I moved to the University of Luebeck, where I found my introduction to neuroscience, before moving on to Paris Descartes, the École Normale Supérieure and the University of Chicago. With each move I developed a new network of colleagues, collaborators, and mentors.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a member of the Irish mathematical community. Many years ago I wrote the website for the Mathematics Department at NUI, Galway. While doing that I included biographies of the then members of staff and their research domains. At some point, I also made a backup of the website for my own reference under my personal domain. Sadly, many of the members of staff who worked at NUI, Galway when I was an undergraduate are now dead. So now this resource has become a useful archive. And thus I was re-discovered by a member of the current Irish mathematical community.
Continue reading “The network you grow up with”
One year ago I finally picked up the courage to put my thoughts publicly online. I led with a traditional Hello World but I quickly followed-up with my opening manifesto for the company I was trying to establish Simmunology.
The discipline of writing is something I initially discovered, when I first moved to Germany, 10 years ago. It clarifies my thoughts and allows me to discover the holes in my own thinking.
Blogging has paid off immensely. Before, I was afraid of sharing my thoughts and having my opinions come back to bite me. This sometimes led me to go too far down paths that I didn’t agree with.
Eventually I had to accept that I have accumulated considerable life experience. And that those to whom I was listening had typically less things of importance to say than I do. Finally, if I put it here and you disagree with me – I might change my mind – it will certainly lead to a more aligned working relationship.
18 months ago I left my academic nest to see what I could discover in the wider world. Here is what I learned.
Continue reading “Lessons Learned”
Nate Silver is most famous in the political world for having correctly predicted the results, on a state-by-state level, of the US presidential election in 2008. That’s back when Obama was first elected president. It’s hard to imagine now, but the idea that Obama would win was only given an outside chance by most commentators at the time.
I find it hard to refer to Nate as anything other than Nate since I’ve been listening to the FiveThirtyEight podcast for so long. We don’t know one another, but he’s become a colleague and mentor who lives inside of my head. The reason he is so important to me is because he has become one of my strongest contemporary influences. His success has given me a roadmap for how to lead my life as a mathematical modeller.
I have been developing a series of articles on Mathematics and Biology (article 1, article 2, more to follow). A common theme in these articles is how a mathematically trained individual finds their place in the modern work environment. We want to pursue our art, we also have professional standards and a lot to contribute, but somehow the connection between our skills and the needs of others are missing. By following Nate’s work, I have at least one strong role model who I can attempt to model. Continue reading “Influences: Nate Silver”
I am a really lucky guy. I am deeply talented. I had access to computer and internet technology from the 1980’s. And people around me have always given me the space to do projects that I am passionate about.
Recently I was forced to confront myself with the realisation that, throughout my life, I have always worked on exactly the projects that I most wanted to work on. Even in school, I just didn’t go to class if I didn’t want to. I learned ten times as much at home, about much more interesting topics, and still managed to ace the exams.
As part of this self-confrontation, I learned that i) this is entirely selfish behaviour on my part, ii) it’s not such a surprise that I have often lacked a mentor at key points in my career.
Continue reading “My art”
This is an article which I don’t want to write, but I also do. I live my life as if nothing happened. I pretend nothing happened. But the effects on my life both then and since have been enormous.
Where were you when 9/11 happened? I was at my parents’ house in Ireland, preparing for my first day at university. I know this because I’ve told myself the story many times by now. I’ve seen the TV reports so often that I can remember the planes crashing into the towers. Only I can’t. I don’t remember any of it.
I was 19 and at least 6 months of my life are completely missing. I got up most days. I talked with people. I successfully registered for university. I moved into on-campus accommodation. I did sport on rare occasions. I even had a girlfriend for 3 months. But the memories were never formed, or if they were I have never had subsequent access (for the neuroscientists out there: they faded out about 12 months later). Continue reading “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”